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"See my hands and feet; touch my skin; feel my bones; feed me!" What more did these disciples need? What more could Jesus do to convince them?
[Cleopas and his companion] rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" And Cleopas told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. As they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the mist of them and said, "Peace to you."
But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. He said to them, "Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."
When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?" They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. He took it and ate in their presence. Luke 24:33-43 NKJV, condensed
Peace to You!
Why were the eleven disciples so skeptical! Why were they frightened and terrified when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst? What was behind their doubting and why couldn't they let go and be happy?
In addition to their shock and grief, I think there might have also been some shame. They had proved themselves to be less than loyal when challenged by the cruel events of the past three days. First Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of Roman soldiers. Then the remaining disciples surrendered to their fears and fled. Peter recovered momentarily but in the courtyard outside the trial proceedings he denied ever knowing Jesus.
After that we hear nothing from these eleven men until the Sabbath was over and Mary Magdalene and some other women claimed Jesus was not dead, but alive. Jesus' chosen disciples did not believe their words! In fact they stubbornly hung on to their doubts. But what exactly was it that they couldn't believe?
On the night Jesus was arrested his disciples did nothing to stand up for, or stand by, their hero. They simply hid in the shadows. It's no wonder they hung their heads as they againreassembled under one roof. How does one make amends for bad behavior? And put an end the tyranny of guilt?
The women among their group had at least watched the crucifixion from a distance. They made sure they knew where Jesus was buried so they could prepare spices to anoint his body the morning after Sabbath. But Matthew, Mark and Luke mentioned no praiseworthy activity among the band of apprehensive disciples.
So, even if Jesus were alive, there was no reason why he should want to return to them. To say the disciples felt badly is probably an understatement. Not only were they dealing with the untimely and sudden death of their leader, they also may have pondered whether Judas took the more honorable route by committing suicide. Life with Jesus must have seemed like a distant dream, with a very unpleasant ending. Especially so because they had learned things about themselves which filled them with disgust. It's hard to believe good news when you feel so lousy about yourself.
Peter was the name Jesus had given to Simon. Peter, as in "the rock." But in this text, Peter has reverted to being Simon. Now on the evening of resurrection day, Simon avowed that he had seen the risen Lord. And a winded Cleopas and his companion arrived with reports about their encounter with the living Christ who walked with them on the road and broke bread with them in their home.
While the others in the room tried to make sense of these exciting words, Jesus suddenly appeared center stage and gently said, "Peace to you." Peace! There hadn't been any peace for days, because troubled thoughts filled their minds while self-pity and self-reproach reigned in their hearts.
"Peace to you."--the words did not sound like his command to the wind and waves on the stormy Galilean Sea. Instead they rippled like a gentle wake. The peace of Christ is pure grace, a gift offered to those who know they are unworthy. If God could raise Jesus from the dead, then surely God could free them from their sadness and those chains of doubt.
The religious authorities had been so smug about chiding Jesus because he ate with sinners. To which Jesus replied it was his job to seek and save the lost. Here, with his beloved disciples, he ate once more with sinners. A spontaneous meal of broiled fish with honey; a sacred moment of giving to each other just as they had always done.
Easter was dawning gradually for the disciples. In the midnight hours, a spark of hope ignited. Together, the men and women in that room would become the foundation of the church. But first they had to make peace with themselves, peace with each other, and peace with their Savior. Maybe that's what Easter is all about. Because Jesus lives, we too shall live. Because he forgives, we too shall forgive. Because he loves, we too shall love. As we accept the peace he offers, we in turn offer peace to all. In so doing, we celebrate Easter every day. Peace to you!
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Describe a time when you fell short of your own expectations.
Does it surprise you that the eleven disciples were slow to believe that Jesus, who had been dead and buried, was now alive and well? How do you think you would have responded?
Discuss the symbolism of a grave, and list some of the "graves" people find themselves in. Which ones from your list do you have the biggest problem with? Who or what put you in the grave? What are the lessons of Easter that will help you get up from your grave and move forward again?
How has your understanding of Easter developed from your childhood years to the present? For you, what is the real Easter message?
"If Jesus can break through the bonds of death, on our behalf, then he can walk us through any illness, any sadness, any fear, any confusion, any hopelessness, any suffering, anything at all. The resurrection happens when we know that we are not alone." React to the above statement. In what ways is it true for you?
When the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus they didn't know if they were seeing a real person, a ghostly spirit of some kind, or whether they were hallucinating. People still debate the question. On which side of the debate are you? Does the verse about Jesus taking nourishment prove anything to you?
What is the relationship between how a person feels about him or herself and what they believe about God?
A personal encounter with Jesus was essential for many of the original disciples in order for them to believe that Jesus was not dead, but alive. In the book of Acts we read that the lifestyle of the early Christians attracted new believers. How does the "Jesus is alive" message get passed along to others in our day?
Imagine yourself in Jesus' presence as he looks at you and says, "Peace to you!"See him offer you the gift of his grace and peace.Watch as you empty your hands of the hurts from your past and receive his gift.